Missing Mandela – A Lost Opportunity?

“Who is better in speech than one who calls (men) to Allah works righteousness and says “I am of those who bow in Islam” TMQ 41:33

On December 5th, 2013, the modern world witnessed the death of Nelson “Madiba” Mandela, a famous advocate for social justice in South Africa and a symbolic figure for racial equality around the world.  Although the Western world mourned the death through touching tributes and emotional eulogies, the Muslim world should have mourned the lost opportunity of introducing this beautiful Deen of Islam to a legendary figure who like every other human being would have benefitted from it and possibly helped others by it.

The historic struggle against man-made systems such as the South African apartheid system are understandable human reactions to oppression of race-based classification and discrimination. As a result, this struggle led by the African National Congress did indeed involve people from all across the various sectors of South African society, including some prominent Muslim participants such as Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada (imprisoned like Mandela at Robben Island) as well as various Muslim ministers who have served in the post-apartheid multi-racial government. Unfortunately, this long and valiant struggle against race-based discrimination took a small step forward without finally making the full leap to true justice under Islam.

Rather than following the crowds crying about Mandela’s passing, Muslims must challenge ourselves to be leaders by remembering our Islamic beliefs as the criteria for judging this situation and all other human events.  First and foremost, we Muslims today must ask ourselves whether we lost our opportunity to gain the Pleasure of Allah (swt) by guiding a non-Muslim to Islam, despite his secular worldly status.  We must remember that Prophet Muhammad (saw) said:

“By Allah, if Allah were to guide one man through you it would be better for you than the best type of camels” (Bukhari & Muslim).

Were those Muslims with Mandela and those among the crowds that greeted him around the world including the Muslim countries concerned more with admiring his acknowledged accomplishments or offering him an even higher station in the Hereafter?  Just think of all the famous and prominent non-Muslims throughout the history of Islam, beginning with the Companions (raa) such as Khadijah, Abu Bakr, Umar, and Hamzah (raa), followed later by Makkan leaders such as Abu Sufyaan, Hind, Amr ibn al-Aas, and Khalid who were all extremely well respected in their pre-Islamic positions in society but were still approached as people in need of da’wa by the Prophet (saw).

Quran states:
“Invite to the Way of your Lord (i.e. Islam) with wisdom and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better. Truly, your Lord knows best who has gone astray from His Path, and He is the Best Aware of those who are guided” TMQ 16:125

There is a lesson for us in the Sunnah of the Prophet (saw) that the only rank that ever has or will matter in the Sight of Allah (swt) in this life and the next one is based on absolute submission to Him (swt) through sincerely and fully accepting, practicing, and preaching Islam.  We can rest assured that Mandela would trade all of his prestigious honors, including the Nobel Peace Prize, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Soviet Order of Lenin on the Day of Judgment when he (like all of us) will stand alone in front of Allah (swt) hoping to gain Paradise and avoid Hellfire.

In addition, we Muslims can only wonder what great things a strong person like Mandela might have accomplished if he had become Muslim and carried the beautiful banner of Islam instead of the secular reaction of simplistic racial rights.

Ironically, the modern media makes a special note of praising Mandela for forgiving the White Afrikaaners who occupied his country, killed his clansmen, and imprisoned him for almost three decades. Although Mandela’s stance was different from the typical revenge-minded mentality characterized by Capitalist ideology, The Prophet’s (saw) incomparable example of not only forgiving his Makkan tormentors while at the head of a massive army (which Mandela never had) but also bringing a new way of life that elevated everyone in the society and around the world is beyond any achievement that Mandela or any other person besides Muhammad (saw) has ever accomplished.

We should be clear, Mandela would not have been welcomed, embraced, and honored around the world if he had spent his life calling for a complete revolutionary break from the Capitalist ideology rather than mere power sharing status quo. If Mandela had taken the unique path of the Prophet (saw), then he would most likely have faced the same bitter opposition for seeking the comprehensive Islamic change to the current Capitalist world order just as those other sincere da’wa carriers are suffering in their current struggles against the oppressive Western governments and (especially) their corrupt Muslim puppet rulers.  On the other hand, who wouldn’t trade the temporary praise from the public for the Permanent Paradise and Pleasure of Allah (swt)?
Mandela and the Muslims missed a precious opportunity.  Let’s pray none among us allows this to happen again.

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